Much was made of the so-called super moon a few weeks back. Out here in the woods, most every appearance of the moon is pretty super looking. I did go outside the shop and shoot a few photos of the event as the moon peeked through the trees.
I’d forgotten about the photos until last night when I was sorting through the desktop looking for something else. When the image popped up on my screen I was immediately struck by the emotional feel and how it related to The Crow guitar. Can’t you just see a huge black crow flying under that moon? Maybe when the guitar is complete I’ll stick it up there and take a photo.
Today I’m leveling the first lacquer coats on The Crow, and spraying the first coats on Sakura. Using a hard rubber block, I’m sanding with 400 grit paper. The first level is the most important because it is the foundation for everything else. I like to take my time and I always follow the exact same pattern.
Once I’m done, it’s time for my signature on the headstock faceplate. The plate is made of black ebony, and no color will be used on it because I like the grain and streaks of color to show through.
Here’s a look at the carved maple back with the black stain. When the guitar is finished, this and the ebony headstock face will be the only transparent areas. I like the idea of a little surprise on the back of the guitar.
The Dantzig headstock design came fairly quickly. I’d been reading about the history of New England at the time, and was struck by some headstone carvings described in the book.
This is the entry in The Crow’s journal—you can see the idea taking shape.
With The Crow guitar, I wanted the monogram “D” at the tip of the head to be inlaid mother of pearl. I have some nice chunks that are about .070″ in thickness, and large enough to do the circle in one piece. The thickness will help avoid breakage when cutting the piece which is very delicate.
The first step was to clean up my sketch and commit it to a paper template. Then I could glue the template to the pearl and begin my cut with saw. Most times, I use a powered jigsaw, but this piece is so complicated I decided to use the hand saw. I’m using an extra-fine blade (.009″) so patience is imperative. The work is backed up on a .125″ thick piece of maple with a slot cut in it for clearance. The inner cuts are made by using a micro-drill to put a starter hole in the pearl; then inserting the saw blade through and into the handle.
Once the cuts are made, I can use a set of miniature files to smooth out the edges. The finished monogram looks good. It needs to be clean because the headplate is unpainted ebony; so there is no way to hide the edges.
The monogram has also been repeated on the headplate. Here it is on the overhead router. There is a matching template to follow, and by using a .020″ micro-mill bit, I can get very close to final fit—the last adjustments being done by hand with an air powered mini tool that is similar to a dentist’s drill.
Here’s the headstock with the pearl inserted and some of the binding in place. I like how the white ivoroid purfling stripes terminate in a blend to the top of the monogram’s circle. The rest of the treatment will be my signature in the center of the headstock. After all, it is a “signature” guitar.
Obsession. It permeates everything in my life. Once an idea begins to make itself known, I get my mental teeth on it like a moray and won’t let go. In order to make some sense of my thoughts, I rely on the board. Not the board of directors—that’s where great ideas get watered down in order to appeal to the largest audience. I call mine the obsession board. It’s an entire wall in my office where anything and everything is fair game. I answer only to my imagination.
As you can see, my recent jag on Karouac and The Crow guitar as a representation of the American dream’s underbelly has really sprouted wings.
The board is a compilation of key words and images that help me connect the dots both while planning and building an instrument. Free association as well as studied theory mingle with hard data and a laundry list of materials and processes. If it occurs to me, it gets written down, and I try not to erase anything. You can never tell when an old idea will become a solution.
Of course, sometimes this madness even creeps into my dreams. Being surrounded by imagery creates subconcious thoughts, which I then turn back into new imagery. Here’s my interpretation of Crow Dream #2.
It’s time to go cut some pearl for the headstock monogram inlay. See you next time.
With the main components of The Crow guitar completed, I spent some time getting the ancillary parts assembled. My Signature Guitars each have a singular theme and I want the parts of the guitar not only to be appropriate for the build, but to be unique as well. The binding on the guitar is an Italian cellulose “faux” tortoise shell, backed by an off-white ivoroid purfling, so I wanted something that would match. Off the shelf parts proved to be a disappointment so I decided to make my own. I’d located some Asian Buffalo horn pieces that were stained a deep amber brown, so I thought that making some of the parts from it was worth a try.
A lathe is on the shop wish list, so I had to use a drill press for the meantime. Here I’m using a file to rough out what will be a strap button. I started with a piece cut to approximate size and rounded enough to get into the chuck.
Once I get the shape, I cut off the button just under the flange and then sand everything smooth down to 2500 grit. The next step is to drill a hole for the mounting screw that will hold it onto the guitar.
I’m going to thread it only slightly, relying on some Devcon for the ultimate bond. I also decided to put a small abalone dot in the center, this matches the side markers on the fretboard.
The switch tip for the pickup selector should follow the theme, so I turned a shape I liked on my makeshift lathe, using finer files as I go.
Center drilling required the fabrication of another set of wooden “clamps”, and after finishing that I used a bottoming tap to put the proper threads inside the hole.
The last step was to use a progression of buffing compounds to bring it to a finish that would compliment the rest of the hardware.
The tip really looks great on the switch and it adds to the exclusivity of the build.
The result is a matching set of buttons that are unique not only to this guitar, but cannot be bought from any supplier. That’s all in keeping with the idea behind each signature guitar I build.
Work continues on the metal plates for the Sakura guitar. The task of making the pieces has taken the better part of three days but they are looking great.
The pickup adjustment will take place directly from the top plate, so they needed to be drilled along with the control holes. Around the edge the mounting screw holes needed to be countersunk.
After smoothing the edges and drilling, a brushed finish is put on the metal before it is to be nickel plated and engraved.
I had the foresight to cut a second top plate because I’d been talking to a client about another guitar that would use one. It’s a guitar that I’m calling “Hell’s Half-Acre” and I can’t wait to get going on it. Stay tuned!